Some programs are good in theory, but require tweaking if they are going to be an effective option for today’s military families.
The Family Child Care Program was designed to give military spouses the flexibility to create an income wherever they are stationed because if there is one commonality between spouses of every branch and duty station, it is the lack of career opportunities afforded to them. Frequent moves make it difficult to continue a steady employment path. Re-licensing is expensive, fees and tests are costly, and most of the time it just doesn’t make sense to pay to get a new license in a new state where you will only be living for a few years.
But, after decades of military spouses putting themselves second to the branch of service for which their service member joined, they are finally speaking up—and being heard.
The Military Spouse Unemployment Act was recently signed into law, confirming that the government recognizes the struggles military spouses face to find new careers with each move, or to maintain licensure from state to state. The bill contains programs and talks of discussions on how to make career paths easier for spouses even through transition periods like PCS and deployments.
And it is timely legislation because the military spouse community has changed. No longer are we all stay-at-home parents, waiting for our active duty members to return home from war. We have progressed with the rest of society in running dual-income households. Spouses have paved the way, to a certain degree, by creating remote businesses that can move with us wherever we go. We have formed Facebook groups, built resources, and shaped the way military spouses find work because, well, we had to.
The Family Child Care program
There are programs originally designed to give spouses the opportunity to be employed in a way that fits the military lifestyle. However, over time, they have become outdated and almost impossible to complete due to limited childcare, expenses, and provider requirements. One of which is the Family Child Care program.
The program enables spouses to create an in-home daycare while earning an income for their family. However, requirements make it challenging for most families to complete the training, especially when you factor in the cost of childcare.
The FCC program isn’t just an option for those who want to run a daycare out of their home. Any person who wants to provide care for children, whether it be a homeschool co-op, in-home preschool, or other child-based activity, must register with FCC if they will have children for more than an hour at a time on a consistent basis. All of this is fine as requirements are necessary to ensure you are equipped to handle the care of children. Yet, the program makes it so time consuming and so costly that most families, especially lower-ranking enlisted families, find it impossible to get started.
The FCC training program requires:
- A 40-hour training class over the course of five days [Three of those days are FCC training and two are CPR/First Aid].
- Fees: $40 non-refundable registration; $70 for CPR/First Aid.
If you have children of your own, you will obviously be required to find childcare during those hours. Let’s take my personal example. I have three children, two of whom are still at home with me. The oldest would still need two-to-three hours of care after school. I live in Camp Pendleton, where the hourly CDC rate is $7/hour per child. To complete FCC training, my cost would be:
One day of care for two children: $14/hour for 9 hours (classes are 0800 to 1600 so I would need care from 0730 to 1630) = $126
$126 x 5 days of care: $630
$630 in childcare plus $110 registration and CPR/First Aid fees: $740
This does not take into account that my oldest daughter would need two-to-three hours of care after school, making me scramble to find someone willing to take her five days in a row after school. In addition, the hourly CDC here on base is only open until 1500, so I would have to have someone pick up my younger two children from care and watch them until I was able to finish for the day.
The FCC program could be amazing for military spouses if it was accessible. Not only could we help to combat the overflowing and always crowded CDC’s with reliable in-home childcare, but we could also do things like open affordable in-home preschool options. We could create our own businesses of language immersion preschool, kids fitness classes, art classes, and more. We could offer in-home summer camps and in-home homeschooling classes for specialized fields. But, most of us can’t do those things because of FCC requirements or base guidelines preventing us from offering much needed services to military families.
The program is great in theory, but doesn’t take into account the realities of a military family’s lifestyle and budget. The two days of CPR and First Aid are understandable; however, three days of in-house training seems overboard. Instead, why not incorporate the use of technology to make training modules easier to complete? By changing the requirements to an online platform plus one 3-hour in-house seminar seems like a reasonable alternative.
In turn, spouses could be empowered to build their own career path no matter where the military takes them.
There are many times that spouses hear that they can’t do something because it interferes with services provided by the base. Yet, when you hear about kids not getting a spot in preschool or the CDC, or parents standing in line at 6 am (or even overnight) to register their kids for swim lessons because that is the only option, why wouldn’t you want to have additional services for families? Why would you want to create an atmosphere of competition for simple services, especially when you have a group of talented, and very-willing people, to help provide these services?
Spend a day with a group of military spouses and you will witness some amazing talents. Talents that don’t get to be utilized because we aren’t “allowed” to do so. We can speak second, third, fourth, or fifth languages. And, we are artists, scientists, robotic engineers. We are writers, singers, and certified yoga-instructors. The FCC program, along with the strict guidelines for small businesses operating within a base, are quite frankly, holding military spouses back. But with some finetuning of certain guidelines, and a whole lot of input from military spouses, we could blow this whole unemployment issue out of the water.